No matter how many French camera crews follow him around, Tony Parker is not the most valuable player in the league.
[Editor's note: To see the case FOR Tony's MVP candidacy, see Fred Silva's post.]
I must begin with an apology, fellow Spurs fans. Tony Parker has had a brilliant season, his best yet. He has led the Spurs through one of their most brillian campaigns, and he raised his game against our toughest opponents. We won't soon forget the way he dominated Chris Paul in LA, nor the way he lit up Russell Westbrook the night he became the Spurs' all-time assist leader. And his demolition of the Laker defense in Staples? Just superb. The Spurs are Tony's team without a question, and he deserves a spot on the All-NBA First Team.
But he's not the MVP.
There are no strict criteria for MVP voters to follow, but through observation we can find some de-facto metrics for the award. Let's look at the previous twenty MVP winners to see what voters look for when they vote:
|WS Rank||PER Rank||Team's Win Percentage||Rank|
As we can see, voters have done a pretty good job identifying, at a minimum, reasonable choices for the MVP. Seventeen MVPs were in the top five in Win Shares, Fifteen were in the top five in PER. Thirteen of them played for the team who earned the best record in the NBA, with five others playing for the #2 record overall. This all seems reasonable, right? Voters are looking for a player who excels individually while playing for a team that has a chance to win it all.
With that in mind, let's look at the players that I felt deserved MVP consideration this season.
|P. Gasol, LAL||10||27||0.621||6|
For the moment, I'm going to exclude Parker from this discussion in order to find reasons to eliminate the least worthy candidates. Chris Paul was brilliant individually yet again, but playing for the eighth-winningest team in the league just doesn't seem to cut the mustard. Pau Gasol had a very good year, but MVPs aren't just "very good" - nor do they play for "very good" teams. The sixth-best record in the NBA is hardly the record of a contender. LeBron James was even better than Chris Paul - yet, despite that and despite his excellent pair of teammates, Miami couldn't overtake Chicago even though they played in the same division as Charlotte. Derrick Rose missed too much time to merit serious consideration for MVP.
Which brings us to Kevin Durant. Durant's Thunder compiled an excellent record: Oklahoma City was one of only three teams in 2012 to play .700 ball (along with Chicago and our Spurs). And Durant was magnificant individually as well, finishing third in both Win Shares and PER.
Tony Parker doesn't have to be in the top five in Win Shares and PER to have an MVP argument. But it seems like a stretch to argue for a player who didn't make the top ten in either category. Tony Parker did extremely well in one important category, he was second in Individual Plus/Minus. But Durant wasn't shabby here, either, finishing number seven.
What's the argument for Parker over Durant? Durant plays alongside two excellent players in Westbrook and Harden, thus making his job easier, you say? I'll see your Westbrook and Harden and raise you with Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. Ginobili missed a ton of time, you say? Well the Spurs had superior depth to fall back on. Not to mention that Scott Brooks is the coach of the Thunder, while Parker's squad is headed by Gregg Popovich. I'll go with the Spurs' head coach, myself.
I hate to write all this. I'd love to see Tony Parker holding up the Podoloff Trophy on the floor of the AT&T with the Spurs' faithful chanting "MVP! MVP!" I'd love to see Timmy and Manu playfully razzing Tony on his special day. It would be wonderful to see another Spur earn the NBA MVP trophy. And Tony certainly has a reasonable argument for the award. But Kevin Durant has the best argument for it, and that's why he should win.